Teens and Indoor Tanning: The Risk Is Real

The desire to be tan remains a trending attraction, especially among young adults. While parents may think they have done their job at educating their kids on the importance of sunscreen at the beach, many are overlooking the serious penalties of letting their teenager use the tanning bed. The dangers of indoor tanning are often ignored or dismissed by teenage girls who are on a mission to be more tan. After all, for only twenty minutes and not a lot of cash, they can get an instant glow and feel prettier before a date or upcoming dance. Unfortunately, neglecting to educate your teen on the real risks of using a tanning bed could result in serious, even life-threatening consequences. A recent article published in the NY Times, entitled “Warning: That Tan Could Be Hazardous”, shares some eye-opening statistics on the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer. Melanoma is simply not worth the fleeting tan.

The NY Times article relates that although evidence of the link between melanoma and ultraviolet exposure was inconclusive a decade ago, its becoming more strongly supported. We know that melanoma is highly treatable if detected early. It most commonly appears as a shiny, pearly nodule on a sun-exposed (or tanning bed exposed) area of the body. Melanoma, however, can also present signs that resemble acne scars or even eczema. It is important for people, even teens, to get regular full-body skin cancer screenings by a board certified dermatologist to ensure early detection of melanoma and other serious skin conditions.

The statistics are harsh, yet they need to be shared with young adults who ignore the dangers of tanning. A 2014 NCBI review of scientific evidence reported that “tanning beds account for as many as 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year, including 6,000 cases of melanoma, the deadliest form”.

What is even more concerning is that the rate of melanoma cases in younger women (under the age of 40) has risen by a third since the early 1990’s, according to the National Cancer Institute. Young girls who are visiting the tanning bed certainly contribute to those scary statistics.

Many may think that as long as they use the tanning bed only occasionally, say a week or two before the prom, than it is harmless. Unfortunately, you are still subject to the dangers of tanning bed even if you use it less frequently. In fact, a 2012 study found a 15 % increase in the risk of certain skin cancers with every four sessions in a tanning bed before age 35!

Although more and more states are adopting regulations to restrict minors from using tanning beds, it is still imperative that teenagers are well educated on this topic. The link between skin cancer and indoor tanning beds is not a rumor; it is a very real and serious consequence that should be taken seriously by both parents and young adults. Protecting your skin from harmful sun or UV light damage at a young age produces far more aesthetic benefits as an adult. Ask your dermatologist about sunless tanning creams for your teen to help them achieve that attractive tan without the hidden health consequences.

Posted on behalf of Olansky Dermatology & Aesthetics